Review: RockBottoms Tango weekender (Torquay)

14th May 2009

Weekender Date: 8th - 11th May 2009

Location: Torquay, Devon

Introduction

"Rockbottoms" is a group who organise weekenders, primarily for the Modern Jive (MJ) market. By MJ standards, these are small-scale events (200 - 300 people). In May 2009, Rockbottoms decided to run a joint MJ / Tango weekender, and I attended.

The Venue

The weekender was in Torquay, in deepest darkest Devon. Well, deep-ish, and quite sunny in fact.

Getting there

It's a bit of a schlep, it has to be said - from London, it took about 4 hours' driving, and that's without any major traffic problems and only one brief stop. The instructions on the Rockbottoms site are pretty good, however.

The venue

The Derwent hotel is part of a hotel complex (TLH). It's a great improvement on the standard of accommodation at most Modern Jive weekenders, in that there's food, facilities, and the dancing is all indoors. I'm never going back to Pontins Hell again, that's for sure.

It's also pretty good value for money - £175 per person, half board, is not vastly more than the average Pontins price in self-catering grotty chalets. Parking was available in hotel car parks, but that filled-up pretty quick on Friday afternoon - although there is street parking nearby, it's much nicer having your car locally available.

The Classes

There were classes in both Tango and Jive, at three levels (beginner, improver and intermediate) - and it's nice that the organisers actually tried to define what each level meant, and also encouraged us not to "mix and match" levels.

The teachers

The Tango teachers there were:

(I assume there were Jive teachers there also, but I didn't care about them)

What I did

I managed to fit in three classes over the weekend: one absolute beginner class with Ian and Mandy (as a follower), and two improver classes with Amir. I didn't get a chance to do the classes with Flavio and Richard, unfortunately, as the timing didn't work for me.

Overall, the standard of teaching in these classes was superb - by far the highest standard, in terms of actual learning-stuff, I've encountered at any MJ-based weekender. Whilst the teachers themselves were very good, I think the main benefit was that the scale was smaller than at a normal MJ weekender - it's not realistically possible to do a "class" with 400 people, the most you can do is demonstrate a sequence of steps.

The milongas

These were.... mmmm... well, they were OK.

These were mainly held in the "Secret Disco", a small cellar-bar room in the hotel. It's a small floor, which is fine, but some of the floorcraft on display was, umm, a challenge to navigate around.

Each evening there'd be a two-hour tango set, then for a half-hour each evening, there was also a tango set played in the main dance floor. So you'd generally have 2.5 hours of tango playing. I'd have liked them to go on longer (only playing exclusive Tango music for 150 minutes per night is not much, really).

Also, they had the same DJ for each night - some variety would have been appreciated.

Summing up

Great venue. Good classes. Lovely company. Average milongas.

Would I go again?

Well..... probably not, but only because I want to focus on Tango weekenders now, I had a grand total of 7 Jive dances in the entire weekend. If they increased the AT component, especially with regard to the milongas, I'd be tempted.

More details: www.rockbottoms.com

- David Bailey, 14th May 2009

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